MUSIC REVIEWS: Lot 49, Carbon 9, The Hold Steady, Zack Borer
Whoever said 90s Alt-rock is dead or out of style, haven’t heard Lot 49’s album Lonely Planet. Comparable to The Smiths and The London Suede, this long lost gem is filled with great songs that harken back to the days when black was the only black.
This Santa Barbara based group, born in 1993 and ended in 1997 was made up of Scott Killion (Malo) on vocals/guitar, Kevin Serra on guitars, Josh Richards on bass and Mike Pearl on drums. Funny enough, the seven songs that make up this album never were released and subsequently lost for a near decade after the band broke up in 1997. Lucky for us they were found!
Right from the beginning, “Exponents” and “Shake Out” both sound like blasts from the past with really nice vocal chops from Killion and guitar riffs from Serra who complement each other well. The whole album has great riffs while “Serenade” offers up spoken word and horns that have a great cabaret feel. This song is almost ahead of its time when you think of many of the acts today that rock orchestral instruments.
The album, with its 90s sound will remind you of your youth and how being an outsider was cool and Lonely Planet is the soundtrack to that memory.
Hi Kids! Are you fifteen? Do you wear nothing but black? Do you hate your parents? Did your first girlfriend just break up with you? Have you never heard of Korn, Disturbed, P.O.D., Nine Inch Nails, or Papa Roach? Then you’re going to love Carbon 9’s newest album The Bull!
Unfortunately for the rest of us, there’s not much to like here. Stacey Quinealty (vocals), Darwn DeVitis, Matty Milani (drums), Omar D Brancato (bass), and Danny Cistone (backing vocals, performing art(?)) form up Carbon 9, a competent but uninspired quintet. Unfortunately their style of nu-metal would’ve sounded outdated in 2003, but here it is in 2009 and we have The Bull. It’s 16 tracks of high schoolesque angst about lost love complete with some of the worst lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. The album credits the song writing to Quinealty and DeVitis, and they clearly hit up their local Sam Ash to pick up the new, patented Trent Reznor lyric generator to put these out. In the title track, they claim to take on “No love for hope,” while in “Loving You,” they boldly and originally claim that “Loving you (has in fact) made me crazy.” Imagine this spread out over 16 tracks, and then throw up in your mouth a little bit. I think the best part is the unintentionally hilarious tribute to Styx in “For You” where Quinealty sings “Mahalo Arigato, Thank You.”
Also their cover of Danzig’s “Mother” has made poor Glenn cry, but I do give them credit for that one because they put a little bit of their own spin on it, adding a harder edge and some electronic squiggles and pops. Unfortunately, in general The Bull lacks any originality or punch. But by all means if you’ve never heard a Jonathan Davis or Trent Reznor self-loathefest, pick this one up.
I’ve been listening to The Hold Steady for a while, not necessarily because I loved their sound, but because they seem to be such an important band in the Indie Rock world, and several of my all time favorite bands admittedly (Sufjan Stevens and Interpol) took me a considerable amount of time to appreciate. I think what makes The Hold Steady so difficult to listen to is the fact that the lead singer, Craig Finn, has a unique and not almost unpleasant voice which, like Nick Cave, moves equally between singing and talking. A Positive Rage contains essentially 16 of the band’s best songs performed live and in order, and a nearly one hour documentary DVD that provides valuable insight into who the band is, their philosophy (positive adult themed rock and roll), and where they came from (Minneapolis).
If you are a die hard Hold Steady fan, A Postive Rage is a must own – the DVD is a marginal cost above the album, and the band just sounds terrific live. If you are new to The Hold Steady, this is probably not a bad purchase either – I gain more and more appreciation every time I listen to the songs, and I sense there will be a timelessness to their songs and sound. Check out “Stuck Between Stations” for one of their trademark songs, “Lord I’m Discouraged” and “You Can Make Him Like You” which really show how great they incorporate the use of a piano, and “Citrus” or “First Night” for two very beautiful slow songs that sort of remind me how good Dave Matthews used to be.
On the surface Zack Borer’s album Home is built firmly on the foundation of a man and his guitar. Borer musically works through the adventures of life involving breakdowns and victories with his own self-explorative mirror and folk, and soulful nicely crafted guitar strumming. At times, with hand-clapping uplifting jams to much harder edged arguments and ponderings, Borer uses his guitar as both a weapon and an extension of self. It is easy to hear his passion but harder to label his sound, it could easily be pop, soul or country. He writes with such a self-righteous efficiency one feels the therapy in Borer’s self-contained songs. Based out of New York City, it is clear Borer is a powerful singer/songwriter. His accessibility is also a gift. At times sort of a single man’s version of Matchbox Twenty or Rusted Root, Borer has a natural, unforced earthy dynamic. “Enemy” is a nice bouncy pop anthem that travels, literally and speaks to his desire to break from stagnation to survive. The beauty of Home reaches the experiences of many and this is Borer’s gift. The way he speaks to his convictions and failures so that it relates to everyone make the album relatable and impressive.